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Twenty-six immigration offenders arrested
     The Immigration Department (ImmD) mounted a series of territory-wide enforcement operations, including operations codenamed "Twilight", and joint operations with the Hong Kong Police Force, the Labour Department and the Home Affairs Department codenamed "Champion", "Powerplayer" and "Windsand", from April 24 to 26 to combat illegal employment activities. A total of 19 illegal workers and seven suspected employers were arrested.

     During operations "Twilight", ImmD Task Force officers raided 12 target locations including restaurants, a bamboo theatre, a butcher shop and residential flats. Five illegal workers and four employers were arrested. The illegal workers comprised four men and one woman, aged 32 to 56. Among them, one man and one woman were also suspected of using and being in possession of forged Hong Kong identity cards. Meanwhile, four men, aged 26 to 59, were suspected of employing the illegal workers.

     During joint operations "Champion" and "Powerplayer" enforcement officers raided 166 target locations in Aberdeen, Yau Ma Tei, Kwai Chung, Tsing Yi and Tsuen Wan districts including restaurants, food stalls, warehouses, laundry factories and residential flats. Eight illegal workers and three employers were arrested. The illegal workers comprised one man and seven women aged 27 to 54. Among them, one man was a holder of a recognisance form, which prohibits him from taking any employment. One man and one woman were also suspected of using and being in possession of forged Hong Kong identity cards. Meanwhile, one man and two women, aged 50 to 59, were suspected of employing the illegal workers.

     During operations "Windsand", six Mainland visitors comprising three men and three women, aged 31 to 57, were arrested for breaching their conditions of stay by being involved in suspected parallel goods trading at San Wan Road and Ka Fu Close in Sheung Shui district and Castle Peak Road - San Tin in Lok Ma Chau district. The goods included milk powder, food, cosmetics products, electronic components and electronic products.
     Since September 2012, a number of "Windsand" operations have been conducted, during which a total of 3 253 Mainlanders and 18 Hong Kong residents were arrested for suspected involvement in parallel goods trading. Of these, 233 Mainlanders were prosecuted for breach of conditions of stay, while the remaining 3 020 people were repatriated. Among those prosecuted, 222 were sentenced to imprisonment for between four weeks and three months and charges were withdrawn for the other 11 people.
     "Any person who contravenes a condition of stay in force in respect of him shall be guilty of an offence. Also, visitors are not allowed to take employment in Hong Kong, whether paid or unpaid, without the permission of the Director of Immigration. Offenders are liable to prosecution and upon conviction face a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to two years' imprisonment. Aiders and abettors are also liable to prosecution and penalties," an ImmD spokesman said.

     The spokesman warned that, as stipulated in section 38AA of the Immigration Ordinance, illegal immigrants or people who are the subject of a removal order or a deportation order are prohibited from taking any employment, whether paid or unpaid, or establishing or joining in any business. Offenders are liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to three years' imprisonment. The Court of Appeal has issued a guideline ruling that a sentence of 15 months' imprisonment should be applied in such cases.

     The spokesman also warned that it is an offence to use or possess a forged Hong Kong identity card or a Hong Kong identity card related to another person. Offenders are liable to prosecution and a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and up to 10 years' imprisonment.

     The spokesman reiterated that it is a serious offence to employ people who are not lawfully employable. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for three years and a fine of $350,000. The High Court has laid down sentencing guidelines that the employer of an illegal worker should be given an immediate custodial sentence. According to the court sentencing, employers must take all practicable steps to determine whether a person is lawfully employable prior to employment. Apart from inspecting a prospective employee's identity card, the employer has the explicit duty to make enquiries regarding the person and ensure that the answers would not cast any reasonable doubt concerning the lawful employability of the person. The court will not accept failure to do so as a defence in proceedings. It is also an offence if an employer fails to inspect the job seeker's valid travel document if the job seeker does not have a Hong Kong permanent identity card. The maximum penalty for failing to inspect such a document is imprisonment for one year and a fine of $150,000.
Ends/Thursday, April 27, 2017
Issued at HKT 18:25
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